30 Apr 2013

Pesticides to be banned in Europe to protect bees

6:19 am on 30 April 2013

The European Commission is to ban a group of pesticides which some scientists blame for a sharp decline in bee populations.

After two votes by European Union members failed to reach the necessary majority, the Commission is now free to impose a ban on neo-nicotinoids.

The BBC reports neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban - not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now have the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids.

The Commission wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year.

The BBC reports there is heated debate about what has triggered a widespread decline in bee populations. Besides chemicals, many experts point to the parasitic varroa mite, viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives.

Some restrictions are already in place for neonicotinoids in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.

The three neonicotinoids are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.

A report published by the European Food Safety Agency in January concluded that the pesticides posed a "high acute risk" to pollinators, including honeybees.

However, it added that in some cases it was "unable to finalise the assessments due to shortcomings in the available data".